MPIRG survey says U is lacking affordable housing

Erin Ghere

New student housing options appear to be popping up all around the University area, but a recent Minnesota Public Interest Research Group study shows it just ain’t so.
As students arrive back on campus, many are left with few places to turn.
“Students are down at the bottom of the ladder in terms of affordable housing,” said Lea Schuster, MPIRG executive director.
The MPIRG study identifies the area surrounding the University and Augsburg College as one of the worst in the Twin Cities for affordable housing, Schuster said.
Most of the new housing near the University, such as the GrandMarc at Seven Corners and the University Village apartments on University Avenue, have outrageous rents, she said.
Housing and Residential Life officials were not available for comment.
The vacancy rate in the Twin Cities is very low, Schuster said, with only 1 percent of residences open for new tenants. In most healthy economies, 6 percent are available at any time.
In Minneapolis alone, there are presently 15,000 fewer living units than people who need affordable housing.
“Tenants are more vulnerable right now, because they have nowhere else to go,” Schuster said.
Landlords can hike application fees, kick tenants out to raise rents or raise rent on current tenants. These are situations MPIRG is trying to prevent with research and lobbying efforts, Schuster said.
Throughout the next legislative session, MPIRG will be lobbying for legislation to protect tenants from landlords. Locally, MPIRG will work with Minneapolis city officials to help fund affordable housing, including supporting a $30 million affordable housing package.
Schuster said it’s ridiculous to have housing for students when they have to work 40 hours per week just to afford it.
Students are sometimes forced to leave school because they cannot find housing or fail academically because their home life is so stressful, she added.
Schuster said students won a small battle when the 1999 Legislature allocated $8 million statewide for the development of mixed-income housing. That will be split between the metro and rural areas.
“But it’s just a drop in the bucket,” she said.
Students having trouble with their landlord or apartment have several resources on campus. The University Student Legal Service on the West Bank offers students help with landlords and the Housing and Residential Life office in Comstock Hall offers free apartment listings.

Erin Ghere covers faculty and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.